Friday, August 29, 2008

BC Warm up, Big Silver Creek!

Coming from the southeast to BC, there is a certain amount of hesitation one feels when buying a plane ticket to boat in a region that is known for pushy water and unscoutable and unportageable stretches of river. There is no warm up run for BC that exists IN BC, but the upper stretch of Big Silver Creek seemed like as good of a place as any. It was reported to be reasonable class 4-5 whitewater, with no serious gnar, at least at normal flows. We were not to be disappointed.

The crew picked up rental cars and headed north of Seattle to stock up on supplies before crossing the border into expensiveland. We had a short detainment at the Abbotsford crossing due to Keith's spotty past. We all had a good laugh when we discovered the cause of all the tension was a record of Keith's involvement in an unlicensed illicit peddling scheme at home. He got caught selling UT shirts without proper licensure. It was a long time ago, and funny that the canucks at the border took it so seriously. Just some flavor to an otherwise exhausting travel day. We drove up to Harrison Lake and camped a few miles in on the drive up to Big Silver, excited about the next day and happy to be sleeping at last.

The next morning, Shane and I rallied everyone as early as we could, not being able to sleep knowing there was cold clear water ripping through gorges all over southern BC. We drove by a huge party still simmering with the sounds of house beat and littered with glow stick wrappers from the night before on the lake, and made it up to Big Silver in good time. Just a mile up from the lake we saw our first glimpse of a gorge with jade green water bouncing gently down the defile. Let the permagrin begin. This was the gentle lower stretch and we thought maybe we would hit it later after the upper. After checking a bridge near the putin for the lower, we confirmed a medium low level for the creek, and continued to the middle. The level was higher than the middle had been run, and not wanting to start out with sketchy seal launch portages and committing class 5, we mosied on up to the upper reaches. The middle looked really awesome though, and if we had more time, the next day would have been prime.

After dropping the crew off for the putin at a clean 30 footer, Bone and I headed down to find "the takeout". This would be our first dance with the BC bush, and not the last or worst. We spent around an hour scouting the class 5-6 stretch below the takeout before the river sieves out, and then located a great takeout that involved a 15 minute hikeout through excellent grizzly digs.

The 30 foot drop at the putin was beautiful, but high flows are required to pad the landing, smooth out the autoboof ramp, and fill in the huge gaping sieve inches to the left of the desired line at the top. Upon our return, we launched into the pool below and began our journey on the waterways of British Columbia. The river was at a low flow, but a great warm up for us low volume ploppers from the desert southeast.

Tony Robinson peering into the first gorge. Jackpot.

Two class 4 drops in and we were entering the first gorge. This is what we came for. The water was totally awesome, with a clear jadish blue hue, and incredible visibility. The walls enclosed quickly with driftwood high above attesting to the dynamic environment we had just entered. After a manky boulder pile the gorge turned right into a nice warm up ledge.

Keith warming it up early on in the first gorge

The gorges on this run are off the hook. Nothing too hard, kind of a similar pace and style to Linville back home. We ran a few gorges that were just incredible, narrowing in places to 8 feet wide with walls to the sky.

After a few lowish feeling set of rapids against the wall, Gold Creek came in on the right, doubling the flow. We finally had some solid water for the rest of the run. After the confluence, we entered the warned crux of the run, which consisted of 3 solid rapids in stacked sequence. The first was a most excellent 8 foot drop in the center of the river, and the second held a pinny line on the right and a big hole on the left. The final drop turned out to be just a nice boof, and the added water made everything feel alot healthier throughout this stretch. This would lead into the final gorge, known as the straight box. It is here where the river was reported to travel almost a mile in a completely straight box canyon with the bedding rising up straight out of the water on both sides. The rapids were supposed to be chill enough to enjoy the scenery, but still fun.

One of the more straight forward drops in the crux section

After several fun and entertaining lines through the straight gorge, we abruptly exited into an open class 2 riverscape for a short distance. We rounded a bend and then scooted through a short little gorgette, our recognized takeout welcoming us below at a large rock bar on the right. This spot is pretty obvious, and if you go a few hundred yards further, it will quickly become apparent that the bottom is about to drop out, in a not so Polyanna kinda way.

After completing our first run, we were elated and our appetites were whetted for what the next week of adventure would bring. I think Big Silver is the prettiest run we did the whole time. It wasn't hard at the flows we had, but was a good warm up while still providing plenty of gorged in action just to let us know we weren't in Kansas anymore. The middle would be an awesome 1 mile in 5 hours kinda day, and the lower looks like good 3-4 boating. The Stave River is a decent barometer for the run. Look for flows of 30-120 cms for the lower, 20-50 for the middle, and 40-100 for the upper. And finally, thanks to Chris Tretwold for being kind enough to divulge his full knowledge of the creek and all the details. Our run wouldn't have happened without his beta.

After finishing up at Big Silver, we scouted Gold Creek, which had a curiously large amount of water rushing down it. The quarter mile from the bridge to Big Silver contained a 20 footer, 10, 15 and some fun rapids. We planned to make quick work of it in the morning, but a bit of wood and the motivation to see new places led us over the pass towards the Nahatlatch, where we found a great camp and set the stage for an early morning suprise huck the next day on Kookipi Creek.

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